Shopping Locally while Thinking Globally
On our annual Christmas tour of Washington last week, we remembered just why we like to do our Christmas shopping as close to home as possible. Starting with Eastern Market in the morning and finishing with the brightest trees on the planet in the evening, on the ellipse behind the White House and at the Capitol, we planned to make a day of it.
Eastern Market was as good it had been two decades ago, when we could walk there any morning. The old market house was filled with fresh meat and eggs and cheese. But over the years, the farmers in stalls outside, where the air smelled of Christmas trees, had gotten even better. Theyd specialized. Apples from Virginia, West Virginia and Pennsylvania were cut for the tasting, and we brought home a bag of a wonderful variety wed never tried before, called Honey Crisp. Even better was the green grocer, an entrepreneurial farmer who was raking in 10s and 20s selling locally grown cool-weather vegetables: salad greens and spinach, beets, baby turnips and irresistibly odd broccoli and cauliflower.
Farm markets breed farmers, we mused, and farmers breed farm markets.
Sounds obvious, doesnt it?
But theres a truth there that takes us from shopping locally to thinking globally.
Had we followed our usual round that morning, shopping at the Annapolis Farmers Market on Riva Road or at Calvert Country Market in Prince Frederick, we couldnt have bought fresh greens in December. Chesapeake Country shoppers have not yet stimulated so specialized a market that a farmer could afford to speculate in weird, chartreuse Christmas-tree shaped cauliflower.
We saw the other side of the equation when we extended our Washington loop into Georgetown to visit Restoration Hardware. Hardware stores are as American as apple pie, and restoration suggested an alternative to the modern wares of our neighborhood hardware store, where we usually shop. Yet everything we examined in the crowded store, where business was brisk, was novelty junk made in China.
In person, we were seeing how American shoppers pushed the national trade deficit for October to $55 billion: buying cheap Chinese goods (and expensive imported oil), according to a government report released this week.
Alarmed, we headed straight home. If our money was destined for China, we at least wanted it to pass through the hands of local merchants on its way overseas.
The next day we set up our new American-made surround-sound system bought locally in Annapolis albeit at a national chain and we placed it on one of a half-dozen tables from Nice and Fleazy in North Beach. If that store hadnt had what we wanted, wed have had our choice of four or five more antique shops in the Beaches alone. Annapolis is full of art galleries for the same reason: People shop there for art. Both are specialized markets supported by shoppers who keep coming back because they find what they want.
hen we shop locally, we grow the local economy. We stimulate the specialized markets that give us what we want close to home. Shopping globally further weakens bot
h the dollar and the nation. It likely will spell higher interest rates very soon on our credit cards and on our home mortgages.